The Nigerian striker is on course to lead the Neapolitans to their first title in 33 years. He has a chance to create a legacy like one of the city’s illustrious talents.
Legends are worshiped in Napoli, this Campanian city in the south of Italy. Diego Maradona arrived in the city almost four decades ago and has remained here. After giving them their first and only Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990, Maradona became a demi-god in this Catholic city where saints have their pride in street corners and candles are lit in their honour.
This kind of legacy awaits Victor Osimhen as Napoli is set to end their 33-year-long wait for a league title in Italy’s top flight. With a healthy lead on top of the Serie A table and goals from the Nigerian striker leading the way, Osimhen could get his shrine in this city one day.
I spent time on Saturday evening visiting the Diego Maradona memorial shrine in the Toledo neighbourhood of Naples accompanied by CalcioNapoli24 journalist Vincenzo Credendino. It was a scene of adoration for the Argentine who died in November 2020 but whose spirit continues to live in this city by the sea.
Maradona grew up poor in Buenos Aires and came to a city where he was feted. He led them against the great clubs of Italy, handing them their two titles and cementing an unshakeable legacy here.
Everywhere one turns in this city, a Maradona shirt hangs around with his number 10 on the back. I even saw pizza packaging with the famous stylized D10S, a play on the Italian word for God.
“Diego Armando Maradona for Napoli is a demi-god. He brought something that the Neapolitans never saw before, the Scudetto,” Credendino told Soccernet.ng.
Maradona’s feat alongside his teammates gave them a bragging right in a country whose football is dominated by the teams of the north.
“The fact that he was able to win saying what Neapolitans wanted to hear. He said that when Napoli defeated Juventus, he was fighting not just against Juventus, not just with the footballers of Juventus but against everybody in Italy that didn’t want a team like Napoli to win against the strong teams of the North like Inter, Milan and Juventus, Credendino said.”
Much like Maradona, Osimhen scored twice in a 5-1 victory against Juventus in January. It was a victory that meant much more than the result, a psychological advantage over the rest of the league after trouncing the most successful side in Italian football.
At a restaurant last night, once the waiter found out I was Nigerian, his smile was different, and his excitement showed. Napoli has taken Victor as its own, much like it adopted the famous Argentine.
Napoli is dreaming of a third title after 33 years. Today, their hopes are on the young Nigerian striker they bought at a record fee the same year Maradona died. Remarkably, Osimhen has a similar upbringing to Maradona, coming from the Oregun neighbourhood of Olusosun, famous for its landfill that once tainted the air for miles.
Two talented young men came to Napoli to play in teams ripe for the title. One of them became a legend. The other may become as great. With each goal, I hope Osimhen will chart his way to this enviable company in the city of Maradona. It is not yet time to leave for Manchester United or other suitors.